After a year as understudy, Lance has been named as the starter for his second season with the 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo is still on the roster, but he's sticking around as a backup. Lance attempted passes in four games last year, including two starts, and struggled with accuracy at every level. On attempts of less than 10 yards, he completed just 60.5 percent (23 of 38). On attempts of more than 10 yards, he was 15 of 30. But he showed progress in his final game, a Week 17 start against Houston in which he went 16 of 23 for 249 yards, with a 78.6 percent on-target rate on 14 attempts longer than 10 yards. That at least gives him something to build on for this season, in addition to his strong arm. Lance's fantasy value is tied to his rushing anyway. In his two starts last season, he rushed 24 times for 120 yards (5.0 YPC), a 1,000-yard pace over 17 games. Even if he lost a third of those rushes as a full-time starter, he'd still be in the 700-yard range, which gives him considerable upside if his passing game develops even modestly. And with George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Elijah Mitchell on hand, Lance has plenty of weapons to carry him until that happens.
Through three games in 2021, it looked like Dillon was stuck in the same role he had as a rookie, getting just a handful of carries per week behind Aaron Jones. That all changed against the Steelers in Week 4 when the two backs had nearly identical workloads and production. From that point on, Dillon and Jones were in a timeshare, and while both players had solid numbers, neither was able to pull away from the other. Dillon's best fantasy game of the season came in Week 10 when he racked up 128 total yards and two touchdowns with the help of a 50-yard catch. The bruising back out of Boston College is listed at the same weight as Derrick Henry, but at three inches shorter, Dillon looks more like a traditional fullback. He doesn't play like one, though, as he has the speed and agility to do more than just thunder through defenders. Dillon also has shown growth since entering the NFL, even emerging as a receiving asset last year with 34 catches and no drops. Jones is still in town for at least one more season before things get dicey with his contract, and Green Bay promoted from within to replace offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett after his departure for Denver, so there's no reason to think the backfield arrangement will see any big changes. Barring a serious injury to one or the other, Dillon and Jones put a ceiling on each other once again in 2022.
Bateman's chances for rookie-year stardom took a hit last April when he landed in Baltimore, home of Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown and the NFL's top rushing attack. The 27th overall pick projected as Option C in the passing game, which he eventually became, but only after missing the first five weeks of the season to rehab from core muscle surgery. Bateman played every game after that, and ultimately had respectable averages (3.8 catches for 42.9 yards on 5.7 targets) despite seeing less than half his passes from Lamar Jackson. The outlook for Year 2 is much better, with Brown shipped to Arizona and both Bateman and Jackson healthy for summer practices. Andrews and Bateman now stand as the top pass catchers, with Baltimore presumably hoping the latter can become more of a downfield threat after seeing two-thirds of his targets within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage last year. The 22-year-old ran a 4.39 40 last spring, and he averaged 20.3 yards per catch during his huge sophomore year at Minnesota (career 16.3 YPC). Now the presumed leader of one of the NFL's youngest WR groups, Bateman doesn't lack for opportunity.